Blatche quiets critics in Gilas’ win over Iran
CHANGSHA CITY, China – With doubts cast on his shape and condition ever since he got here, Andray Blatche silenced his critics – both domestic and foreign – with a world-class performance that basically paved a smoother road to Rio de Janeiro for Gilas Pilipinas.
“The man! The man!” Asi Taulava was hollering as he led the way for Blatche going to the team bus, moments after the Filipinos chopped down mighty Iran to size, 87-73 on Monday that put the Iranians and China in a Final Four collision course in the Fiba Asia Olympic Qualifier.
Ranged against the region’s most dominant slotman for most of the past decade, Blatche made the 7-foot-2 Hamed Haddadi look so bad in the final two periods that the Iranian game on both ends just fell completely apart at Changsha Social Work College gym.
His stats line: 18 points, seven rebounds, four steals, two blocks and one assist against a turnover in 26 minutes – his longest stint, certainly not bad for one seen by all as overweight who huffed and puffed his way through the first four games of the Nationals.
“That’s one thing about life, you can’t make everybody happy, someone is going to say something (about my conditioning),” Blatche said of his critics, who surfaced ever since he showed up with a beer belly for Gilas’ first practice last August 3 at Meralco gym back home.
“The most important thing is we got the win,” he added after leading the Filipinos to a win over Iran for the first time in a Fiba tournament, which also snapped a three-year drought dating back to the 2012 Jones Cup in Taipei.
“It’s not a statement game (against Haddadi),” Blatche went on. “We just executed well, we attacked and got the win. I felt like we prepared ourselves for this moment. We came out and did what we were supposed to do.”
It seemed like Blatche was the one who prepared himself for this moment, as Haddadi never got comfortable the entire game and showed his frustration by hacking Calvin Abueva hard to earn a fourth personal and a technical foul and be disqualified with still four minutes left.
Haddadi is without a doubt the heart of the Iran game, as he changes every shot defensively and can attack the basket every time a drought comes for the Iranians.
Blatche made sure that he wasn’t that kind of a player for Iran, at least in this game.